National Geographic : 1972 Jan
National Geographic, January 1972 all government trials involving people of his area. Though his official role is that of con sultant, he actually plays an important part in local justice. Chief's Word Parts Veil of Secrecy My friendship with the chief greatly facili tated my study of the tribe. Like most people in the New Hebrides, the Small Nambas have been wary of whites since 19th-century labor recruiters sought plantation-worker "volunteers" at gunpoint. Ilabnambinpin helped me win acceptance, and sometimes persuaded the elders to let me witness taboo events. On the night of the boys' initiation, for example, as on later occasions, villagers would inform me, "Kal, ee got one somting ee taboo little bit, but old fella ee tell em you savvy look-look more take em photo." Ilabnambinpin also provided a hut for me at Lendombwey and, with other men, put a layer of banana leaves over the dirt floor. He saw to it that I received bamboo tubes full of water and generous supplies of yams and taro. Often he brought a laplap, a pud ding made from grated yams or taro and cooked on heated stones. He made certain that Metak visited me often to answer my questions about tribal customs. Ilabnambinpin, surely, was my key to the Small Nambas' social world. His thoughtful ness for my comfort went so far that when I washed in a nearby creek, he sometimes offered his service as a back scrubber! Most of the daily activities at Lendombwey revolve around the yam and taro gardens plots to be cleared, fences to be built or re paired to keep wild pigs out. To supplement the starchy staples, the men slip into the forest with bows and arrows to hunt the wild pigs, pigeons, and a kind of bat called flying fox. The rivers yield eels, fresh-water shrimp, and various fishes. Although many Small Nambas are familiar with New Hebridean francs and Australian currency, earned on the coastal plantations, only tusker pigs can buy important things in life-a wife, a higher grade in the Nimangi society, or instruction in rituals. When a male pig becomes a year old, its upper canine teeth are knocked out to permit lower tusks to grow in a graceful circle. The greater the tusks' curvature, the higher the pig's value. Oddly, a missing tooth denotes a more valuable wife, too. A Small Namba wife who wants to advance to elingl, the fourth highest grade in the women's Nimangi, must be will ing to sacrifice a front tooth. During the "I'm a good wife, hardworking and virtu ous," proclaims the gaping smile of a Big Namba woman (left). At a special cere mony a tribesman knocked out two upper teeth, a sacrifice that established her status as a married woman. For the rite, her husband paid a toll in pigs. Among the Small Nambas, women lose a single tooth during the agonizing ritual (right). Pounding a sharpened stick with a rock, a relative loosens an upper incisor of a young girl so that it can be removed with the fingers. Afterward, a heated plant stem stops the blood as a tear trick les from her eye (above).